Pasta with Cauliflower, Tomato, and Parmesan

1-PotItalianCauliflowerPasta and Noodles

Pasta with lightly toasted cauliflower florets cooked in a sauce of tomato, anchovies, onions, garlic, parsley and Parmesan.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Move over kale, cauliflower is now the “it girl” these days. There are just so many wonderful dishes you can make with it!

This simple pasta with cauliflower, tomato, and Parmesan is a great example. I’ve adapted the recipe from a Sicilian recipe by Vincent Schiavelli that appeared years ago in Saveur.

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It’s outrageously good; I’ve been eating the leftovers for days, which just seem to get better as the flavors have more time to meld.

The secret ingredient?

Pasta Cauliflower Tomato Parmesan


Okay, so I’m weird. I’m one of those people to whom you can say “cauliflower” and “anchovies” and I’ll start salivating. I’ll take cauliflower any which way (though IMHO roasted is best) and anchovies?

Well anchovies are one childhood prejudice (“hold the anchovies!”) I’ve happily outgrown. (Thankfully, along with my childhood anti-opera and country music sentiments, too. What is it with kids not liking things before they’ve ever tried them?)

No, the anchovies will not make this dish taste like fish. They will however give it an indescribable savoriness (umami) that will make you want to eat the whole bowl.

Updated with new photos from the recipe archive. First published Nov, 2009.

Pasta with Cauliflower, Tomato, and Parmesan Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Variations to this recipe include adding some toasted pinenuts or walnuts, a few raisins, and or some saffron.


  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs*
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided 2 and 4 Tbsp
  • 1 onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons anchovies packed in oil, minced (about 6 anchovies)
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, core removed and discarded, florets coarsely chopped (see How to Cut and Core Cauliflower)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 pound small elbow macaroni
  • 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes, chopped, or diced tomatoes, including juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

* To make breadcrumbs, chop up about 3 slices of day old bread. Pulse in blender or food processor until you have small crumbs.


1 Toast breadcrumbs: Toast crumbs in a little olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat until lightly browned. Remove crumbs from skillet and set aside.

2 Sauté onions with garlic and anchovies: Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet on medium low heat. Add the onions, garlic, and anchovies.

Crush the anchovies with the back of a spoon so that they smear well over the onions. Cook for 5 minutes, until the onions are soft. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside.

While you are cooking the onions, put a large pot of salted water (1 Tbsp salt for 2 quarts of water) for the pasta on the stove to boil.

3 Sauté cauliflower florets: Heat 4 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet on medium high heat. Add the cauliflower, stir infrequently, allowing the cauliflower edges to brown. Cook until the cauliflower florets are lightly browned, 3-5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes to the pan, and salt and pepper to taste.

4 Add tomato paste, tomatoes, onion mixture: Dissolve tomato paste in 1/2 cup of water. Lower the heat to low. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and anchovies, stir to combine well.

Cook, uncovered, on low heat, until the cauliflower is tender.

5 Cook pasta, add to cauliflower mixture: Cook the pasta, uncovered, in salted boiling water until just al dente, according to the pasta package's cooking directions. Drain the pasta from the cooking water and add the cooked pasta to the cauliflower mixture.

Stir in about half of the parsley, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan (leave the rest for garnish on top).

Makes great leftovers as the flavors have more time to blend.

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Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks

Pasta with cauliflower, walnuts, and feta from Deb of Smitten Kitchen

Spinach fettucine with cauliflower and bacon from Blue Kitchen

How to Cut and Core Cauliflower tips here on Simply Recipes

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

41 Comments / Reviews

No ImagePasta with Cauliflower, Tomato, and Parmesan

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Grace

    Never cheese with anchovy, one or the other, as in the original recipe you referenced from
    Vincent Schiavelli in Saveur. Otherwise, very good recipe, close to authentic.

    Show Replies (2)
  2. Toni S.

    Absolutely delicious! I used medium whole wheat shells instead of elbows and added some tomato sauce. Also added a chopped shallots and fresh basil. This recipe is a keeper.


  3. DC

    Was very skeptical about the ingredients, but the flavors blended magically. One comment is that a whole head of cauliflower is a lot so proportionally it seemed to have more cauliflower than pasta. That may be a plus though if you are trying to eat less carbs. You also truly can’t taste the anchovy though there is a umami savory a bit funky flavor to the sauce, which I really loved though some may not. Deeply flavored and delicious.


  4. Mary

    Your recipe was great, thank you.


  5. Elise L

    Made this a couple of weeks ago and my kids (2 & 5) LOVED it. Said it was the best pasta they had ever had. The adults liked it too, so a winner all round. There were no leftovers. Has now been added to my list of regular weekday meals. But next time I will have to make of it so I can enjoy some leftovers. Thank you Elise!

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